Health care decisions can be difficult under the best of circumstances, but they’re even harder when patients can’t speak for themselves.
In Colorado, the law says that no one is approved automatically to make medical decisions for another adult if they are unable to make those decisions for themselves – not even spouses, adult children, or other family members.
“Having the individual let us know who they trust to make medical decisions is the most important step and knowing how they would like us to care for them in case they are not able to make their own decisions is so important,’’ said Dr. Hillary Lum, physician and assistant professor of medicine in the University of Colorado School of Medicine Division of Geriatric Medicine.
To help individuals take next steps when they are ready, UCHealth has new tools available through My Health Connection, the personalized and secure online access to an individual’s medical record.
Through My Health Connection, individuals can:
- Complete an electronic Medical Durable Power of Attorney (MDPOA) form to legally appoint who they trust to make medical decisions for them if they are unable to
- View and print their electronic MDPOA form
- View educational Advance Care Planning resources to learn more
- Send an on-line message to contact the Advance Care Planning Support team
- Once completed in My Health Connection, a MDPOA automatically becomes part of a patient’s medical record so that it is available for the health care team to view as part of the patient’s medical care. Patients are encouraged to share personal values, life goals and preferences regarding future medical decision making with their health care decision maker and their health care team.
“One of the most loving acts that you can make for your loved ones is to let your wishes be known,’’ said Adreanne Brungardt, a research assistant and staff member of the Advance Care Planning Support Team.
So far, response to the new opportunity has been favorable. More than 500 patients have already used the tools in My Health Connection. Individuals are all ages, ranging from 18 to 98 years old.
While developing the tools, members of the Advance Care Planning Support team contacted individuals to get their feedback on why they decided to complete Advance Care Planning documents. Here’s some of the feedback:
- “I did it so that no one else could come in and interfere…so that my daughter has my words to back her up if anyone should try to interfere.”
- “It’s definitely of importance because with my medical condition there are times when I cannot make decisions for myself.”
- “There’s nothing worse than putting your family in that situation where they are guessing, because if that comes up it’s a hard enough situation as it is.”
Across the country, completion of advance directives remains low despite studies showing that advance care planning improved patient autonomy, satisfaction with care, quality of life at end of life and better psychological outcomes during bereavement.
One of the advantages to the MDPOA being available in My Health Connection is that individuals can fill it out on their own time and with input from loved ones. “It gives people a chance to take their time and have others around to discuss,’’ Brungardt said.
There is no charge to fill out the forms or to receive information. Individuals can call a central telephone number, 303-724-3141, to speak to a knowledgeable healthcare staff member who can help explain the documents.
The My Health Connection patient portal represents UCHealth’s commitment to information transparency and seamless communication.
“We want our patients to be full partners in their healthcare,’’ said Dr. CT Lin, UCHealth’s chief medical information officer. “We have more than 290,000 patients with My Health Connection accounts, and we are very excited that so many patients are already starting to complete their MDPOA online, and that this information flows seamlessly into their main Electronic Health Record to be available at all points in their care at UCHealth.”
The initiative to build a platform in a patient’s medical record is funded by The Colorado Health Foundation. The work is being conducted by the University of Colorado School of Medicine Division of Geriatric Medicine in collaboration with UCHealth’s Ambulatory Health Promotion Program, Population Health Service Organization Clinical Transformation and Care Management and other teams.
To learn more about advance care planning and to fill out a Medical Durable Power of Attorney form, login to your My Health Connection account, and under “My Record” click on “Advance Care Planning.”